Created By: Unknown Troper on September 9, 2008
Nuked

The Frizzle

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The Frizzle is the Crazy Awesome with the serial numbers filed off. Whatever backstory, secret origin or mysterious past The Frizzle has is by definition locked away: his existence is a conundrum, he usually displays powers or abilities that are unusual if not downright bizarre for the setting, and exhibits eccentricities to match. One would assume that such an impenetrable enigma would be a source of gallons of plot, and you'd be right, although not in the obvious way: rather than being a puzzle to solve, their very presence is typically a plot generator, setting people and events in motion as a direct result of their oddball take on reality.

The Frizzle, it should be noted, is only The Frizzle if they are genuinely unique in their setting. In a world where anybody can be The Frizzle, no one can be The Frizzle. If "he/she must be a Time Lord" is a workable explanation for a character, odds are it's The Frizzle you're looking at.

Attempting to actually explain The Frizzle may have unintended and hazardous consequences, including but not limited to Wall Bangers, Explanatory Disappointment, Cerebus Retcons and, in some severe cases, the dreaded Voodoo Shark.

Examples:
  • Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus is the Trope Namer, taking a very hands-on approach to education which typically involves taking her students on "Field Trips" in her bus, which has the power to shrink, expand, change, transform and generally do things school buses aren't supposed to be able to (it is a magic school bus, after all), and that doesn't even begin to describe the various things it can do to the students themselves for the sake of first-hand experience with the subject of the day. All that's ever revealed about her and the bus is that her first name is Valerie and the guy who built the bus doesn't seem particularly magical himself.
  • Inspector Gadget manages to be The Frizzle despite also being Inspector Oblivious. Never mind that it's his niece Penny and his trusty superintelligent dog Brain who actually do all the investigating (and get none of the credit): just how the hell did he end up as walking Swiss Army Knife who'd probably be the most dangerous crimefighter in the world if he wasn't such a flaming idiot? The show never tells us, and we're probably better off for it. (The Movie takes a stab at it, but it doesn't go well.)
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac was intentionally created without a backstory because author Jhonen Vasquez knew that no backstory would satisfy reader expectations.
  • The Doctor himself qualifies, although not so much as 40 years of television have shed quite a bit of light on his origins. However, a suggested series centered around a younger Doctor (the concept of which eventually became The Sarah Jane Adventures) was vetoed for the exact same reasons as JTHM above.
  • The Joker as depicted in The Dark Knight proves conclusively that you don't have to be even remotely on the side of good to embody this trope. The movie goes to great lengths to deny that the Joker has any backstory whatsoever, even having the Joker himself lampoon the idea by twice (and nearly three times) giving mutually contradictory explanations of how he got his signature scars.
  • Mary Poppins is not only an example of this trope, but quite possibly scarier than the Joker once you realize that in the original books, she was practically a god.
  • The entire main cast of Killer7 probably qualifies, all the more since the officially-published backstory doesn't actually match what's presented in the game.
Community Feedback Replies: 10
  • September 8, 2008
    robert
    Implicitly, all these characters do have a mysterious past. It's just never explored.
  • September 8, 2008
    Unknown Troper
    That's the point. We never learn their mysterious pasts; in fact, the fact that we don't know them is an intrinsic part of the character. - Ryusui
  • September 8, 2008
    VampireBuddha
    The shinigami in Death Note are like this - it's never explained where they come from, why they or their world exists, of why they're issued with death notes. They just serve to drive the plot.
  • September 8, 2008
    Ryusui
    The shingami don't quite qualify: they're an established part of the Death Note world, which is simply Like Reality Unless Noted. They're part of the story's cosmology, and as far as shinigami themselves are concerned, there's nothing special or unusual about being one. (Even Ryuk isn't terribly unusual; boredom seems to pervade the shinigami world, though he's the only one who hit upon dropping a notebook into the human world to see what would happen.)

    Before you point out that by this yardstick the Doctor shouldn't count, note that the Doctor is himself considered unusual among Time Lords.
  • September 8, 2008
    Sir Psycho Sexy
    Would Yuko Ichihara count?
  • September 8, 2008
    robert
    As written, the trope description says they don't have a mysterious past, 'no mysterious past'. That's contradictory.

    They do have mysterious pasts, which by their nature are never shown. If it was, it wouldn't be mysterious.
  • September 8, 2008
    Ryusui
    Ah...apologies for the hyperbole. That's what I meant.
  • September 9, 2008
    Unknown Troper
    Bumping YKTTW with revised description.
  • September 9, 2008
    Strain Of Thought
    This reminds me of various eccentric characters (like Kramer on Seinfeld) who manage to succeed at outrageously absurd things to the bafflement of their fellow castmembers. Is there already a trope for characters like that, but who don't appear to be magical?
  • September 10, 2008
    Unknown Troper
    The character doesn't have to be magical (the Joker and JTHM are evidence of that); they just have to be outrageous/incredible/improbable but not actually have their backstory (how they became incredible) divulged.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=nw2qnxyyw2lxawy7ucwg5qvu&trope=TheFrizzle